Challenges and Opportunities to Education in Rwanda

Imagine teaching an elementary classroom.  You’ve taught using the English language your entire career.  In May you and your colleagues receive a memo from the federal Department of Education that you must communicate all classroom instruction in French, beginning the next school year.

That’s the kind of challenge faced by Hategekimana Lambert, a deputy headmaster at a public school here in Kigali, Rwanda.  In the spring of 2008, teachers and administrators at Lambert’s school, called GROUPE SCOLAIRE KICUKIRO IMENARUGAMBA,  as well as all public schools in Rwanda, were directed by the national government to use English as the mode of instruction, moving away from an education system based for many years on French.

Today, in most public schools in Rwanda, faculty face the dual challenge of teaching their student to read and write in English and to learn themselves how to converse and instruct using the English language.  In a meeting yesterday at the national government’s Ministry of Education offices, one top official observed, “Teachers learning English and teaching the English language may be the top educational priority of Rwanda’s national government.”  We’re seeing first-hand the challenges and opportunities to education in Rwanda.

AfricaReads, Inc. seeks to be one partner with Lambert and his teachers at the Kicukiro school to address these challenges.  Ken Stamatis and a group of university students are modeling for Kicukiro teachers foundational strategies that necessary for children to read, write, and converse in English. Another partner, Africa Transformation Network, an organization based here in Kigali and staffed by both Americans and Rwandans, provides English instruction to teachers and teenage students at the Kicukiro school.  Together, AfricaReads, ATN, and the Kicukiro school hope to discover methods that assist Rwanda teachers to effectively instruct using English and that successfully teach children to read and write in English.

National leaders here apparently believe that English-based education is a productive way forward for this African country, considered by many to be among the most stable and progressive nations on the continent.  Skilled educators like Lambert have the task to make this vision a reality.  And, for organizations like AfricaReads and ATN, we have the chance to join with Rwandan leaders like Lambert to make positive contributions to the welfare of the nation.  More specifically, we thankfully receive the opportunity for even a small role to open doors for Rwandan children that lead to a hopeful, peaceful future.

– Ron Cook

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